The Crofton Civic Association unanimously approved its fiscal 1992 budget Monday night, increasing spending by nearly 4 percent but cutting back on overtime pay and eliminating bonuses for the police department.

The $502,000 budget, which will go into effect July 1 of next year, is a $20,000 increase over this year's $482,000 budget.

The new budget meets the association's goal of keeping the increase below 5 percent. Any larger spending increase would have to be approved in a vote by Crofton taxpayers. The spending plan also maintains the town's property tax rate of 29 cents per $100.

The most controversial part of the budget dealt with the police department's share, nearly half of the town's total expenditures.

Last week, the association voted to cut police overtime by 4 percent from fiscal 1991's budget -- from $21,000 to $15,000 -- and cut out police bonuses completely. The board also decided to cut cost of living adjustment increases for all town employees from 5 percent to 3 percent.

On Monday, however, some board members wanted to restore some of the money to police salaries, arguing that the only reason they were cut in the first place was to keep the overall budget increase below 5 percent. That suggestion failed, even after the new town manager, Jordan Harding, decided to forgo the town health plan, saving the town $4,000.

Administrative Assistant Barbara Swann, who was acting town manager during the budget process, said the town's five police officers may actually see a net loss in pay under the budget plan.

She said the 3 percent cost of living increase and 5 percent step increases for each officer may not offset the loss of overtime pay and bonus pay coupled with the 10 percent increase the officers must pay for health coverage.

Swann said to increase the COLA to 4 percent would cost the town an additional $1,400 for the police department and $2,500 for other town employees.

Association member Ken Chute agreed. "I don't think we can do the town a favor by saving one penny or two pennies while attacking the pay scale," he said. "We didn't have to cut (the COLAs) to 3 percent. We have this much money left over, let's put it back."

Chute and Harding said that the town had set a precedent in its hiring guidelines when in 1987 it gave its officers the same cost of living increases county police officers got, which usually came out to 4 or 5 percent.

Chute said changing that precedent could have long-term effects. "What guidance does this give our town manager when he hires the next person?" he said.

Swann said the board should "consider what they are doing" by cutting the COLA. "The employees are very unhappy with the proposed cuts," she said. "Morale is very low at this time."

But Association President Ed Dosek disagreed. "I don't see them very upset," he said. But, he added, "They don't like to see their increase being decreased, and that is what we did. We didn't cut their salaries."

Dosek said tax bills from the county are starting to arrive, and some people are seeing a 45 percent increase.

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